Researching Debt and Credit Law
Debt and credit law are governed by both state and federal laws. Depending on the specific problem you are trying to research, you may need to research Maryland state law, federal law, or both.
In Maryland, the official source for the state statutes is the Annotated Code of Maryland. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries (see SAILOR, Maryland's Online Public Information Network sponsored by Maryland public libraries) carry the Annotated Code of Maryland in print. Keep in mind, however, that the print version may be more useful in your research because it provides summaries of and citations to cases that have interpreted each statute. The free web version does not give summaries of case law.
Citations to selected Maryland debt and credit law statutes:
- Md. Code Commercial Law Article, Title 1: General Provisions
- Md. Code Commercial Law Article, Title 9: Secured Transactions
- Md. Code Commercial Law Article, Title 12: Credit Regulations (includes restrictions on interest rates and installment or "rent-to-own" sales)
- Md. Code Commercial Law Article, Title 15: Debt Collection - Special Provisions (includes assignment of debts, attachment of wages, priorities in insolvency/bankruptcy)
The official source of the federal statutes is the United States Code. All Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries carry the United States Code in print. Many of the same libraries carry one of the unofficial print versions, the United States Code Annotated or the United States Code Service. You should research the federal statutes in one of these unofficial print versions of the Code first because they are both more up-to-date than the official Code. Also, the unofficial print versions include summaries of cases that interpret each statute. Below are quick links to a few important federal debt and credit-related statutes:
USC Title 15 Chapter 41 includes most major consumer credit and debt laws.
- Subchapter I—Consumer Credit Cost Disclosure (§§ 1601—1667f)
- Subchapter II—Restrictions On Garnishment (§§ 1671—1677)
- Subchapter II-A—Credit Repair Organizations (§§ 1679—1679j)
- Subchapter III—Credit Reporting Agencies (§§ 1681—1681x)
- Subchapter IV—Equal Credit Opportunity (§§ 1691—1691f)
- Subchapter V—Debt Collection Practices (§§ 1692—1692p)
- Subchapter VI—Electronic Fund Transfers (§§ 1693—1693r)
The Maryland Commissioner of Financial Regulation regulates and investigates complaints against credit reporting agencies, retail installment sellers, mortgage lenders, and credit unions in Maryland. The Department's regulations are published officially in Title 9, Subtitle 3 of COMAR (the Code of Maryland Regulations). The print version of is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Department's regulations are also available electronically on the Division of State Documents home page.
The Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and the Federal Reserve Board regulate consumer lending, credit reporting, and debt collection practices. The FTC's regulations are published officially in Title 16 of the CFR (the Code of Federal Regulations), the print version of which is available in all Maryland law libraries and many Maryland public libraries. The Federal Reserve Board's regulations are published officially in Title 12 Chapter II of the CFR. They are also published electronically on the Government Printing Office's web site.
The Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education ("OPE") regulates student loans. The OPE's regulations are published officially in Title 34, Subtitle B, Chapter VI of the CFR.
Resources for Additional Help
The resources below may help you to understand debt and credit law. Keep in mind, however, that books explaining the law are no substitute for the law itself. You should always verify what the authors of these books say about the law by looking up the statutes, cases, and regulations the books cite. Some of these books may also include sample forms.
- Money Troubles: Legal Strategies to Cope with Your Debts / Margaret Reiter and Robin Leonard. 11th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2011.
- Credit Repair / MJohn Lamb, Robin Leonard. 10th ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2011.
- Fair Credit Reporting / Anthony Rodriguez. 7th ed. Boston, Mass.: National Consumer Law Center, 2010.
- Take Control of Your Student Loan Debt / Robin Leonard & Deanne Loonin. 3rd ed. Berkeley, Calif.: Nolo, 2001.
- Credit Card Consumer Guide / Federal Reserve Board. Washington, D.C., 2001.
- Federal Reserve Board consumer pamphlets on debt and credit problems
- Federal Student Aid [financial aid] Portal
There are several ways to begin research into debt and credit case law. One way is to find the statutes that apply to your situation in the Annotated Code of Maryland, the United States Code Annotated, or the United States Code Service then look at the case summaries that follow them. You can find additional cases by reading books that explain the law and noting the cases they cite. Another method of finding cases is to search the Maryland Digest, which is a subject index to Maryland case law, or the Federal Practice Digest, which is a subject index to federal case law. The Digests arrange summaries of published cases by legal issue using something called the "topic and key number" system. Once you know the topic and key number combination that represents your issue, look up that topic and key number in the Digest and you should find a list of case summaries that discuss your issue. Each summary includes a citation to the full text of a case.